Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Whole Lotta Fun

Madeline dressed herself for the day!

It has been a fun and busy several weeks!
My news is that after years of talking about how much I'd like to write editorials for magazines, I finally submitted an article to Real Simple's annual writing contest (along with 7,000 others). Even though my chances of winning are slim, it feels great to have finally taken some action.

The kids are growing like dandelions -- Madeline's already three and a half and Charlie's 19 months. He's so big that someone asked us if the kids were twins! Madeline often announces that Charlie's her best friend. They actually play happily together now (when they aren't fighting over the same toy) -- I just step back with the video camera and watch it unfold.

Charlie loves wearing Madeline's Dora helmet; the other night, he insisted on eating dinner in it. He waves at everything, including our neighbor's air conditioning unit when it shuts on or off, his dinner plate when he's finished, and strangers everywhere we go. He's trying to talk, spitting out words like, "tur-tur" (turtle) and excitedly says "hi!" If we forget to say grace, he'll remind us by sitting quietly with his hands folded.
At least he was willing to take the helmet off at bath time
Madeline is figuring things out. Last night at bath time, she ran upstairs, plugged the tub and started running the water at the perfect temperature. When we play with Tinker Toys, she arranges sticks and calls out the letters she created -- "Mommy!! Look! It's an E!" She asks why a car doesn't have a lid when we see a convertible. This morning, she was wrapped in a blanket, singing, "Here is the bride. All dressed in wide."

Here are are few other highlights:

Adventure Science Center
Climbing to the top in her tutu
The electric car was Charlie's clear favorite

We started our morning at the Planetarium in Nashville's children's museum, watching Big Bird and Elmo discover the Big Dipper, the North Star, the Sun and the Moon. Madeline kept gasping with excitement in the dark beside me and whispering, "Mom, are we flying?" when the movie panned up to space or back down to Earth. Then she opened her arms like she was kissing the sky and wrapped herself up, saying, "Sometimes, I just hug myself!" I realize in these moments that I'm witnessing true wonder, just like her first magical trip to the beach. We played with trains, climbed up a three-story tower overlooking the Nashville skyline, stepped inside a giant brain, and visited with dinosaurs.

Purity Dairy Tour
Someone knows she's about to eat ice cream...
We went with friends to see how ice cream was made. After getting lost and meeting the group late, we realized that the factory no longer gives tours. We had a great time anyway watching a video, then looking out a window onto the factory floor. Of course the best part was the ice cream social at the end. Madeline and Charlie loved it!

Love-hate relationship with a cow
Madeline requested songs and danced!

Chick-fil-A is to the South what In-and-Out Burgers is to L.A. The restaurant obviously caters to exhausted moms since the staff falls all over themselves to help me carry our food, refill my drink, roll a high chair to the table, and wipe our spills with a smile. Tuesdays are family night, so when Rob had a work dinner last week, the kids and I headed to Chick-fil-A -- Madeline and Charlie danced, clapped and sang along with a guy named Conductor Jack. Then they jumped into the congo line weaving around the restaurant. Charlie was both enchanted and terrified by the giant dancing cow; Madeline loved the glittering flower she had painted on her hand. We all left happy with free ice cream cones after Madeline and Charlie ran off any extra energy before bedtime on the indoor playground.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lucky Seven

Today marks Rob and my seven year wedding anniversary! As the hours tick by, I always love remembering what we were doing at each moment of our wedding day seven years ago... Without getting too mushy, I will say this: I married the man I prayed for -- he's my best friend, an amazing husband and a terrific dad. Choosing Rob was the best decision of my life. As Madeline would say, "Go, Team Vlach!"
We celebrated Saturday night -- Rob hired a babysitter and treated me to a fun date night! We had cocktails at Franklin's trendy Red Pony, where we spotted Ashley Judd and Dario Franchitti (they walked past us and climbed into their Ferrari). Then we crossed the street and had an upscale Mexican dinner at SOL Restaurant. We ended the night with cream slushies from Sonic. We talked about how much life we've packed into seven years, and we imagined our future together.
Happy Anniversary, darlin'! Here's to seventy more!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Paci Fairy

The Paci Fairy has been circling our house for about a year. We've been laying the groundwork with Madeline to help her give up her pacifier, but we've procrastinated knowing there's a chance no one in our house will sleep very well for awhile after it's gone. This week, I caught sight of Charlie playing with Madeline's pacifier before bed, and we couldn't find it in time for lights out. Rob was at a work dinner. Decision time for Mommy. I took a deep breath.....

The Paci Fairy left Madeline a note!
Madeline was adorable as we weaved a story about the Paci Fairy: She comes in the middle of the night, trading Madeline's pacifier for a special gift, and leaves behind a magical trail of glitter and jelly beans. Then she flies straight to the hospital and gives Madeline's pacifier to a baby who needs it. As we finished reading Curious George and story time came to a close, Madeline proudly exclaimed, "I don't need my paci!" But then a few minutes later, she would quietly and sadly say, "Mommy, I really want my paci."

After she bravely fell asleep without a peep or protest, I..uh-um, I mean the Paci Fairy...zipped out to Target minutes before they closed to pick up the essentials: sparkly pompons, sequins, a trade-in gift and lots of candy. I grabbed some reinforcements for the days to follow. Rob and I had church giggles sneaking into her room that night, hiding a wrapped baby doll under her bed and spreading the candies and sparkles all around. We left a special note to Madeline from the Paci Fairy herself.

At 5:45 the next morning, Madeline burst through our door, shrieking with excitement that the Fairy actually came. It has only been two days, and unfortunately, Madeline caught a flu bug, which hasn't helped with the transition. But she's a little trooper and taking it in stride. Maybe in the long run, we'll save ourselves the expense of braces?

Nah, probably not...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Secret's Out

A few moments ago, Madeline asked me if we had a box. I answered yes, but then investigated a little more. She clarified. "Do we have a box that has wine in it?"

Secret's out. Even our 3-year-old knows that we drink box wine when there's no one around to see...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Trip to Costco

Let me tell you about our trip to Costco today. This is pretty typical.

Both kids are loaded in the basket. Madeline has one of Charlie's onesies on underneath her sleeveless sundress. We get looks, but I think she looks pretty cute. Charlie is wearing the shirt Rob put him to bed in last night. It's from Pottery Barn and has his name embroidered on the front, so no one will actually realize that I just threw some shorts over it.

We walk around the store trying samples. I'm trying to keep Charlie from spilling the mango juice from the tiny paper cup he's crushing in his hands. A jolly older man with a white beard and perfect mustache winks at Madeline and hands her a card, which is undoubted intended for me, in case I want to hire a Santa impersonator. It has his summer and winter address (North Pole Lane) so we can write him a wish list. It's a little creepy, but Madeline is enchanted. Every time she sees him, she goes crazy and asks me things like, "Why is Santa buying milk, Mommy?"

The sole inspiration for this Costco outing is to find a gift to thank our wonderful neighbors who took care of Maple a few times this summer, including this weekend while we were in Colorado. I'm looking for Wii games, but can only find Rock Band for $150. So instead I grab a two-ticket movie pass for $15.50, but they're a family of five, so I decide to buy three packs. Do some quick math and realize this is pretty expensive, especially since I wanted to buy them a pizza for dinner too. Kids are already starting to get a little antsy, so I grab and go. Put some more groceries in the cart and grab the pizza. Some moisture from the refrigerated chicken has gotten the movie pass a little wet and it grosses me out. So I put it back, intending to grab a dry one. Now Charlie's getting really hungry for lunch, so I dart to the check out line. Have you ever shopped at Costco? I'm digging out my Costco card, shuffling through my wallet for cash, when I realize I never threw a new movie pass into the cart. There are three full baskets in line behind me. The check out clerk (a young guy who definitely doesn't have kids) tells me I can go grab another one and get back in line; he doesn't say it rudely, but it rubs me the wrong way. So I buy what I have, then ditch my full basket (full of shrimp and other frozen items) and go to the hot dog line to feed my starving boy. Twenty minutes later, Madeline's covered in smoothie and Charlie's playing under the table, but our stomachs are full. Madeline's enthralled that Santa's eating a piece of pizza (he winks again. Time to roll). I realize I have to go all the way out of Costco, then check back in to re-enter the store and buy the movie passes. Feel like I want to just skip it, but give myself a verbal pep talk ("Meg, you can do this. Just get it done. Do you really want to make another whole trip for this gift? No! So suck it up.") I sneak the wrong way through a line back into the store, leaving my basket by our hot dog table. Now I don't have a cart to clip the kids into, so I'm holding their hands. Charlie has one shoe on. He takes off running, practically shrieking with joy at his new found freedom. Madeline thinks it looks fabulous, so she follows suit.

I have completely lost control.

Wrangle kids. Get the movie pass. Wrangle kids some more. Get back in line, which has gotten even longer. When I notice the woman in line behind me holding a $15 Wii game that would be perfect for the kids next door. This would put me back within my budget (especially since we have nonstop birthday parties -- i.e. birthday presents -- this month). Decision time.

Grab the kids. Go back and find the Wii display that eluded me the first time around. Grab a Twilight game for the girls and a baseball game for the boy. Horrify a group of boy scouts as I chase my wild animals and say, "Mommy's starting to lose her patience!!!" Back in line. Madeline is covered in ketchup and smoothie. If people were looking twice before, you should see them now, especially since she's lying on her back spinning on the floor. A dad with a few things in his cart takes pity on me and ushers me in front of him.

Buy the stupid gift. Grab my cart full of thawing meat. Tickle the kids and try to finish strong. Charlie's laughing and throws his hands up in the air. Oops. He accidentally smacks Madeline in the eye with his flip flop (which is in his hand instead of on his foot). She's in agony and has a cry that I'm sure people can hear all the way back in the loading dock.

Deep breath. Soothe her. Get to the car. Get to the car. All I can think is just Get. To. The. Car.

Locked and loaded. Driving back home, trying to keep Charlie awake so he'll take a nap in his crib.

Cross my fingers and hope that they both actually sleep. I haven't heard anything in the ten minutes since I started this post, so I might actually get to put my feet up and recharge for this afternoon (an absolute necessity since they're literally powering up like a drained cell phone as I speak...)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rocky Mountain Wedding

We're home from the most amazing weekend in Winter Park, CO, for Mollie and Kenny's beautiful wedding! The only thing more gorgeous than the views at 9,200 feet in the Rocky Mountains was Mollie! She looked more stylish than a New York City bride in her sassy birdcage veil, BCBG gown and four inch platform heels. She wore the same crystal necklace that my mom and I both wore in each of our weddings, an heirloom worn by two of our great grandmothers! Andi did her hair and I did her make-up. But Madeline and Charlie could have done it for her and she still would have been the definition of lovely.

The grassy valley, silver mountains and crystal clear skies were backdrop -- God's cathedral -- for a deeply moving ceremony. Madeline took her flower girl duties very seriously, dropping every petal one-by-one until her bird nest basket was empty (Ning slipped her Skittles the rest of the service to keep her quiet). Everyone held their breath as my dad walked Mollie down the aisle. Kenny's father officiated; Andrea read an excerpt from a poem she wrote about our mom; I read romantic Bob Dylan lyrics Mollie and Kenny chose; and Kenny's grandfather gave a tribute that moved many to tears. One of Kenny's groomsmen, a childhood friend, waved an American flag to honor Kenny's brother and best man, Nate, who is serving our country and couldn't leave ranger school to attend the wedding.

After the ceremony, everyone sipped champagne and listened to live guitar at the lookout point before heading down to the beautifully-decorated 100-person reception. Kenny is accomplished at brewing his own beer, which he's been working on for months to serve at the wedding. What a party! The music was thumping and the dance floor was packed. One of my favorite moments was when Mollie took center stage, revealing her broken-in cowboy boots to the crowd while she danced to an upbeat bluegrass song! Madeline was a complete ham -- she loved having an audience! -- and ran around in her ballet slippers wearing props from Mollie's photo booth corner. Sweet Charlie found his way to into the cupcakes before dinner even started.

With a one year old and a three year old, sometimes the things that don't quite go as planned are the funniest. Madeline entertained everyone Friday night by stripping down to nothing but her tights and hairbow during the rehearsal and scooting herself all the way down the aisle on her rear end. The next night, she barfed at the wedding reception in all the excitement (and after all the s'mores she ate, which Mollie gave as favors to go with the late night bonfire), but at least she managed to do it discreetly behind the head table. And Charlie, who is becoming increasingly independent, refused to wear shoes, but insisted on wearing his tie clipped on to his pajama shirt underneath his seersucker jacket. Oh, and he had turtle embroidered shorts on under his linen pants. Minutes before the the ceremony started, I sent Rob on an errand back to our cabin -- I found out the next morning that he actually had to pop a screen and break in since all the doors were locked.

It was an incredible weekend celebrating the newlyweds, with a wonderful rehearsal dinner (the caterer recreated Kenny's dad's spaghetti sauce) and a relaxed brunch on Sunday morning. It is an absolute gift to have Kenny officially be a part of our family. And it was an extra special treat to be able to spend four days with family and friends in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. We love you, Mollie and Kenny! And we wish you a lifetime of love, happiness and good fortune in your marriage and in life!